Homework Habits for Success
Posted on March 21, 2018 by CHS
Whether your child is in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college; she will have to do homework. Homework serves as a way to practice skills or concepts that your child learned at school. Although homework is a helpful part of the learning process, it can often be a source of frustration at home.
You can reduce those feelings of frustration for both you and your child by taking steps to understand the teacher’s expectations, setting up an environment to support learning, creating a schedule, teaching your child organizational skills and study habits, and knowing where to find help.
Remember, it is your job to support your child in completing her homework independently, but it is not your job to do it for her. If you teach your child good study habits and hold her accountable for getting work done, she will be successful in school.
Connecting with Teachers
Build a relationship with your child’s teacher so that you can work together to support your child’s learning. You can ask the teacher to schedule a conference with you to talk about one or more of the following questions:
- How much homework can I expect my child to bring home?
- Will the homework come with clear directions so I can assist my child?
- What are the program learning goals for the year?
- How can I support my child at home?
- Does the school offer a program for homework assistance?
- What is the best way to communicate with you?
You can prepare questions to ask the teacher with this Parent-Teacher Conference Worksheet. Keeping in touch with your child’s teacher and being alert to any letters or notices from the school can help you understand what is expected of your child. Attend as many school events as you can, and participate in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Making connections with other parents and members of the PTA can be a source of support for you.
Creating a Study Space and Schedule
Dedicate an area of your home to be a place for completing homework. This can be the kitchen table, a desk in your child’s room, or a quiet corner of the living room. The area should be free of distractions, have good lighting, and contain work supplies like paper, pencils, and a ruler. If your child needs to use a tablet or computer to complete homework, place it in an area where you can easily supervise it and use parental controls to prevent your child from getting distracted, or accessing inappropriate information. If your child’s study space is in her room, check on her frequently.
Establish a consistent schedule for completing homework. According to Homework Help: Supporting Your Child’s Education by the PTA, you can expect a child in kindergarten through second grade to receive at least 20 minutes of homework each day, grades three through six to receive between 30 and 60 minutes a day, and middle school or high schoolers receive at least two hours of homework a day. Your child’s teacher can help you determine how much time your child will need to dedicate to homework daily. Involve your child in creating a homework schedule and organizing her work.
Tips for Organizing and Studying
Teach your child how to prioritize tasks and manage her time. Ask questions that help her think critically about what needs to be done and make a plan. For example:
- Which assignment will take the longest?
- Which project is the easiest?
- Which assignment do you want to do first? Why?
- What materials do you need to work on each assignment?
- When is each assignment due?
- For big projects: How can we break it into sections so you do some of it every day and finish on time?
Encourage your child to keep a homework journal where she can make a list prioritizing her assignments. She can check them off when she finishes them and you can make a second check mark next to each homework item as you review it. By asking your child questions and guiding her in making a list of what needs to be done, you will help her feel like she has control over her homework and is capable of completing it.
Children in kindergarten and first grade may not be able to write a list. They can put numbers on the top of homework sheets to prioritize them, or draw symbols to represent the type of work instead of the project name (math could be represented by = or +, reading by a letter of the alphabet or picture of an eye, science by a flower, etc.).
Once you have established a place and time for homework, you can create a written agreement between you and your child to be clear about your expectations for each other. Consider using this sample for a Homework Contract by Understood.
Teach your child to be responsible for placing homework in her backpack at school, taking it out at home, and returning it to her backpack once it is completed. She can be responsible for other items in her backpack as well. You can use this Backpack Luggage Tag Checklist from Understood as a visual reminder, or create your own.
Monitor your child’s progress for any signs of frustration or stress. While it is not unusual for children to experience stress or frustration from time to time, it can be detrimental to learning if they do not learn how to deal with it. In fact, children can actually focus better on a topic if they take a 5 minute “Brain Break” every 15 to 20 minutes while they are working. So when your child gets stressed, step away together and dance to one song, do some deep breathing, step outside and blow bubbles, or do a few stretches.
Help your child practice for tests by making flash cards and using them to give her a practice test. You can also turn learning into a game. For example, to practice new vocabulary you could play Charades or the guessing game, What is it?
Teach your child how to read for information. As she moves forward in school, your child will be expected to read more non-fiction informational books. Knowing how to read and take notes from books is an important skill. Here are some basic steps you can take:
- Start by asking your child to identify the parts of the book.
- Talk about how it is divided into chapters.
- Show her how to check the end of each chapter to see if there is a summary or question section.
- Suggest that she start by reading the summary and question section. This will familiarize her with the content of what she is going to read. It will also help her identify important facts because as she reads she will find the answers to the questions.
- She can write out the questions, leaving space below each, and as she encounters an answer she can write it out. This will help her focus and remember what is important.
- Next search for graphics. Pictures and charts are often used to summarize important information.
- Check to see if the chapter is divided into sections. If yes, encourage her to write one summary sentence for each section in her notes.
- Show her how to recognize important information and highlight it, or write it down in a notebook.
- After she is done, ask her, “If you were the teacher, what would your test questions be?” This will help you determine how accurately she processed what she read.
Show your child that you value learning by doing your own work while she does hers. You can read a book or newspaper, balance your checkbook, or write a letter to a relative. This is an opportunity to model learning, while staying available if your child needs help with an assignment.
There may come a time when you feel that your child could use some extra support with her homework. Be prepared by knowing Who You Can Turn To at Your Child’s School for help. Use a School Contact List and a Teacher Contact List to organize and keep phone numbers and email addresses of people who can help you.
Schedule a conference with the teacher to discuss your concerns. Fill out this Parent-Teacher Conference Worksheet before your meeting so you do not forget to mention something. Be prepared to take notes during the meeting. Ask the teacher what resources are available to you through the school.
You may find that homework help apps for tablets and mobile devices are helpful tools for your child. For a list of homework help apps that have been evaluated by Common Sense Media, click here.
Many public libraries offer online assistance with homework, homework clubs, and tutoring services. In-person homework help programs are usually run by volunteers, so services may vary at each library. Libraries also have computers and internet that are free to use with a library card. Most libraries also offer enrichment programs like book clubs or Read Aloud programs where children can read to therapy cats or dogs. You can find a library near you by clicking here.
If you need more assistance with finding help for your child, contact your local Resource and Referral Program and they can assist you with finding free or low-cost developmental screenings or homework assistance. You can also explore the resources below.
References and Resources
- “Checklist for Helping Your Child with Homework” from Colorín Colorado: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/checklist-helping-your-child-homework
- Helping Your Child with Homework free book by the U.S. Department of Education: https://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/homework/index.html
- “Helping Your Grade-schooler with Homework” by KidsHealth®: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/download-sample-homework-contract
- “Helping Your Teen with Homework” by KidsHealth: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/help-teen-homework.html?WT.ac=p-ra
- Homework Information from the California Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) in Multiple Languages: http://capta.org/focus-areas/education/homework/
- Information about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from the California Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) in Multiple Languages: http://capta.org/focus-areas/education/common-core/
- Resources for Helping Children with Special Needs Do Homework from Understood: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills
- “Study Skills They Don’t Teach in School” by Education.com: https://www.education.com/magazine/article/Study_Skills_They_Dont_Teach/
- “Using Brain Breaks to Restore Students’ Focus” by Judy Willis: https://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-breaks-restore-student-focus-judy-willis